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Language

Herero is a Bantu language (Niger Congo - Benue-Kongo - Bantoid - Southern - Narrow Bantu - Central), classified according to Guthrie (1948) as R30. According to Ohly (1999:5) mainly three dialectal clusters may be discerned: Kaokoland Herero (also: Himba), Central Herero, and Mahalapye Herero (also: Mbanderu). These languages are spoken in Namibia (Herero, Himba, Mbanderu), Angola (Himba), and Botswana (Mbanderu). According to the 2001 census (Republic of Namibia 2003:4) 8 % of Namibias population of 1'830'330 speak Herero at home, this makes ca 146'400 speakers today [1]. Other important languages are English, Afrikaans (both official languages, vehicular, some mothertongue speakers, especially for Afrikaans), the Wambo dialectal cluster (ca 50% mothertongue speakers), Nama/Damara, Bushman [2].

Otjiherero is mainly an ethnic language, i.e. predominantly used in more or less homogeneous (monolingual) in-group communication among fellow Ovaherero. Most Herero people speak at least one to three additional languages, depending on age and region: Afrikaans, English, Nama/Damara, Ambo or German. In the north Portuguese is used as a lingua franca in contact with peoples from Angola.
Herero is used in schools as a medium up to Grade 2, after that as a subject, which can be taken up to University and Ph.D. level.
Otjiherero has a rather low status and is perceived by most people, including Otjiherero speakers themselves, not to be a language of the future.

See "Sociolinguistic profile"


[1] Interestingly, though Omatjete is located in the Erongo region, the census gives no Herero-speakers in this region (2003:6). Further, there seems to have been no explicit language question in this population and housing census (2003: Appendix 2, p. 91-92). It is therefore unclear where the above cited information extracted from the census comes from. According to Möhlig, Marten & Kavari, there are about 141'000 speakers in Namibia, and another 18'000 in Botswana (Möhlig, Marten & Kavari 2002:13). The Ethnologue (www.ethnologue.com) gives 113'000 in Namibia, for Botswana and Namibia together 144'000. These numbers are based on the 1991 census.

[2] Based on the 1981 census, Ohly gives the following numbers (1987:26f, my compliation): WWambo 49,1%, Nama/Damara 13%, Afrikaans 11,6%, Kavango (Kwangali, Gciriku, Mbukushu) 9,3%, Herero 7,4%, German app. 1%, English app. 0,3%.








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